September 6, 2011

Crib Bilingual

According to Jared Diamond's The Benefits of Multilingualism, children raised bilingually develop a specific type of cognitive benefit during infancy, and that bilingualism offers some protection against symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia in old people.

 Since her first days at home, Emilu has heard two languages at home.  Spanish from me, and English from her dad.  We have done this naturally and without rehearsal.  At first, I wanted her ears and brain to "hear" only Spanish.  A sign that read "Solamente Espanol"  was going to help me achieve it.  However, this was not practical, as my husband's default and nurtured language is English, albeit being Latino. 

But, it turns out that speaking two languages at home might be more advantageous for a kid's ability to adapt and break down processes in the brain.  A recent study says it, according to this Bilingual Babies have an Early Edge article, and I sigh in relief because, although I always knew bilingual households are a good thing for kids, I naively thought that introducing one language first was best, in order to avoid developmental and speech delays. 

I recently spoke to an ethnomusicologist at work, who says the trick is to consistently speak the two languages at home, preferably having one parent speak one, and the other parent speak the other.  She sees it often in her circle of friends, bilingual households where babies grow up speaking both languages perfectly.

In my last day at work when Emilu heard me speak English her eyes opened widely and she stared me down, thinking for a second her mommy must have been switched.  To think this tiny little person already knows the difference, and was appropriately surprised to hear one parent had switched.  Now that's an early edge!

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